Friday, September 28, 2012

Lean Quote: Seek Multiple Views

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Most disagreements about the right solution, decision, or course of action are really disagreements about the interpretation of current reality…Most statements about current reality are not wrong; they are incomplete. The person who adopts this principle seeks to put multiple views of current reality together to build one common and more complete view of it." — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino

This quote has been sitting with me a while and I hope it is relevant for you too. So often, even a gemba experience may be different for people. Even though facts are found at gemba, people may only see certain things and not the whole picture (like the four men & elephant story). I think the Respect For People principle is at play here too because it suggests to mutually respect multiple perspectives and put together into one common view.



Today's Lean Quote is courtesy of my friend Brian Buck. Brian is an internal Lean consultant at a hospital in Washington State. He blogs at http://improvewithme.com and can be found on Twitter as http://twitter.com/brianbuck.


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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lean Roundup #40 – September, 2012

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of September, 2012.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Characteristics of Lean Leader – Mark Graban shares 7 characteristics or qualities of leader in a Lean environment.

Are We There Yet? - Alex Maldonado says there no recipe to tell you how many Lean activities to be successful but you can use "LEAN" to help.

What is Good Leader? – Pascal Dennis shares his thoughts on what is takes to be a good business leader.

Do You Envision the Ideal? – David Kasprzak explains why an envisioned ideal helps you to constantly progress i

Lean Thinking and The Third Party Logistics Provider – Robert Martichenko explains the benefits of connecting Lean and your Third Party Logistics (TPL) provider.

Climbing Mountain of Change – Ankit Patel shares some variables that will help you be successful in making change happen.

Rules of Newawashi – Dragan Bosnjak explains the rules of newawashi or consensus building for teams to participate.

It's All About People And Relationships – Bill Waddell says management by numbers is a losing game, management is about people.

Instituting a Culture of Continuous Improvement – Mark Graban shares 7 tips that leaders can do to create a lasting and meaningful culture of continuous improvement.

5 Critical Control Chart Characteristics You May Not Be Aware Of – Ron Pereira explains 5 details of control charts that can help your process control.

Learning To Share – Bruce Hamilton reminds us of the importance of sharing as a means of learning.

A Lifecycle Perspective On Product Quality – Michael Grieves takes a look at quality throughout the Product Life Cycle.

Build Systems That Allow Quick Action - Don't Just Try And Run Faster – John Hunter advocates building system that respond quickly not just going faster which often means working smarter than harder.

Engaged Employees = Loyal Customers = Business Results – Al Norval talks about employee engagement, customer experience, and how leaders can influence them.

The Lean vs Six Sigma Debate Rages On – Karen Martin adds her commentary to the debate she says should never be a debate. It is about improving how we improve.

Can Lean And Corporate Governance Play Together? – John Smith explains Lean and corporate governance and how they can be institutionalized.

Lean Lego - The Red Brick Cancer – Hankan Forss explains a traditional healthcare setting and a Lean healthcare setting with a Lego action story.

Visual Management is Critical to Lean – Matt Wrye shares why visual management is a critical component to Lean thinking.

Start with Production Control and Empower People Through Standards – Tracey Richardson explains how to do Lean in a flow vs batch operation.

Lean vs Historical TPS – Art Smalley shares his thoughts on implementing Lean in different environments.


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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Meet-up: Michel Baudin

Today on the Meet-up, blogger Michel Baudin is here to share his thoughts.  Michel Baudin's Blog serves as means to share ideas from manufacturing operations. He works to understand the human and technical dynamics of manufacturing, and to contribute to their improvement. Michel has a wealth of experience from implementing manufacturing improvements and drive for continuous learning.

Who are you and what do you do?
I write, teach, and consult on Lean Manufacturing, and have been at it since 1987. Within Manufacturing, I have worked on Lean implementation in industries ranging from frozen foods to aircraft, on four continents. I have occasionally ventured outside of Manufacturing and to topics other than Lean, but have always come back. Overall, since 1981, I have been working to understand the human and technical dynamics of manufacturing, and to contribute to their improvement. Why did I choose this field? It was not the direction I had started in.


I was born and raised in France, and studied Engineering there in the 1970s. The French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf wrote that people should view themselves as having origins rather than roots. Origins are where you came from. They don’t restrict you. Roots hold you in one place like a tree. I have lived 31 years in the US, 23 in France, 4 in Japan and 1 in Germany. And I have visited other countries on consulting assignments. I am from France, but have immersed myself in other cultures from an early age. This is why and how I have learned English, German and Japanese well enough to function professionally in these languages. 

How and when did you learn Lean?
In 1980, I was a researcher in probability theory, working out results that were later published in 81, 83, 84 and 86. This theoretical work was intended for earthquake prediction, which had led me to Japan in 1977. By 1980, I had understood that this pursuit was futile and the task impossible with the available technology. As of 2012, it still is. 


As a French draftee with knowledge of Japan, in late 1979, I was assigned to the Scientific Service of the embassy in Tokyo, where part of my job was organizing and leading factory tours for visiting industrialists. Their reactions made me realize that there was something special to these factories, and it piqued my curiosity. 

One of my colleagues, Francis Lecroisey, told me that Toyota had developed a remarkable production system and that I would find at least two books about it in any neighborhood bookstore in Tokyo. It was true, as I checked down the street from my apartment. To this day, when I visit Japan, I still hit the larger bookstores for the latest about Manufacturing, and find hundreds of titles on topics ranging from cell design to quality and company-specific approaches. This literature, unique to Japan, is targeted at practitioners and full of concrete, actionable ideas, clearly and graphically explained.

How and why did you start blogging or writing about Lean?
I have always wanted to be a writer when I grow up, and I still do. Blogging is to book writing as one-piece flow is to batch production. On a blog, you publish small pieces and receive immediate feedback in numbers of page views and comments. With a book, it takes two years of hard work before you find out whether your intended audience is interested in what you have to say on a subject. I learned both Lean and the means of implementing it by working with Japanese consultant Kei Abe for eight years. In the beginnning, I made myself useful to him by generating slides and writing reports to clients. Later, these slides became the basis for my initial course materials, and the reports, duly sanitized, for my books and articles. 


I didn't start blogging until a year ago. Until then, I participated in discussion groups, particularly NWLEAN on Yahoo, where I was the most prolific contributor. For years, it was the most active forum on Lean, but it is now dwarfed by LinkedIn groups. NWLEAN topped out at about 6,000 members; the Lean Six Sigma group on LinkedIn, as of this morning, has 144,717. But LinkedIn has many groups on Lean, with overlapping memberships. 

Blogging has the following advantages over participation in discussion groups: 

  1. You have full editorial control. 
  2. You can format and illustrate the content with photographs and even videos as you see fit. 
  3. Everything you write is concentrated in one place. 

And you can still participate in most LinkedIn groups by sharing your blog posts. 

What does Lean mean to you?
I define Lean Manufacturing as the pursuit of concurrent improvement in all dimensions of manufacturing performance by eliminating waste through projects involving both the production shop floor and the support activities. 


To me, it is essential to Lean that the changes you make do no harm. For example, you don't improve quality by sacrificing productivity or lead time. You focus on ways to improve all at the same time, which, by simple logic, leads you to focus on waste and takt-driven production. But you don't go around with a checklist of waste items to eliminate. Instead, you structure the transformation into projects like cells, chaku-chaku lines, SMED, milk runs, or Kanbans, each of which addresses many instances of waste at once. 

I think this definition is applicable with small vocabulary changes to other types of businesses, but my concern is Manufacturing.

What is the biggest myth or misconception of Lean?
The engineering dimension of Lean is given short shrift, just about everywhere outside of Japan, and it is the main reason so many implementations fail. A complete approach covers all the four dimensions that my colleague Crispin Vincenti-Brown identified: 


  1. The manufacturing and industrial engineering of production lines and work stations.
  2. Logistics and production control. 
  3. Organization and people. 
  4. Accountability. 

In the US, you do see some milk runs and Kanbans, some production teams, and performance boards. Logistics, organization and accountability do get some attention, but engineering doesn't, except from the few Lean consultants with an engineering background, who think nothing else matters. 

In reality, everything matters. If you want Lean implementation to succeed, you can't leave out any of the four dimensions, which doesn't mean you address them all at once. Engineering is the foundation, and usually where the low-hanging fruits are to be found.

What is your current Lean passion, project, or initiative?
I have a particular interest in manufacturing data mining. In my practice, wrangling information out of clients' legacy systems has always been one of my strengths, and I would like to share both the kind of results I found and the methods I used with the community. 


However, even though my clients find this work useful, I have yet to find disciples. Last year, we offered a class on this subject through UC Berkeley extension, but no one signed up. The announcement was as follows: 
Recommending a road-map to Lean for a plant requires understanding its business and its technology. Much -- but not all of this understanding -- can be gained by directly observing the shop floor and listening to managers, engineers, and operators. Direct observation and human perceptions, however, must be supplemented by data mining. Among the sources the analyst must draw on for this purpose are the data generated by manufacturing operations: production is driven by orders converted to schedules, it is performed according to specs, its status is monitored and results are recorded both in terms of quantities and quality. 
The size of manufacturing data sets permits analysis to be done with tools that are either already present on engineers’ laptops or can be downloaded at little or no cost. Focused data cleaning is the most challenging first step. Making clean data talk requires tools that are much simpler and easier to use than those described in the data mining literature. The effective presentation of the results requires focusing on graphics for communication, not decoration. 
On my blog also, posts on this subject generate little echo, so I am keeping this bag of tricks to myself for now. My posts on metrics, on the other hand, have the most page views and comments. Through the blog, my audience is telling me to pivot rather than persevere...



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Monday, September 24, 2012

2 Second Lean Book Review

Paul Akers, founder and president of FastCap, has published his first book 2 Second Lean: How to Grow People and Build a Fun Lean Culture at Work and at Home. I have been following Paul for several years as he has built FastCap into one of the model Lean Companies in this modern age. So now that Paul has published his story I was delighted to take the opportunity to learn more.

2 Second Lean is different than most books on the marketing written about Lean manufacturing/thinking. This book isn’t really about Lean or continuous improvement but rather the transformation of a leader. The story chronicles one man’s personal journey with the discovery of Lean and how he implemented it in his business and personal life. This personal touch makes the lessons Paul presents more relevant and lasting.

Paul describes his personal journey beginning with a total ignorance of Lean thinking, all the way to being one of Lean's greatest success stories. Paul illustrates the struggle many organizations face when their understanding of Lean is centered only around tools. To quote Paul, “Using Lean as only a tool will leave you disappointed. It is much more than that.” He learns from Domo Arigoto, Vice President of Lexus, “The most important thing for Toyota is people – teaching and training people in a culture of continuous improvement.” This is the turning point for Paul and FastCap.

In 2 Second Lean Paul outlines the steps that he personally used to transform the culture of FastCap. His approach may be a bit unorthodox as he advocates starting in the bathroom but it is simplicity that he is after. Throughout the book Paul breaks down the concepts and thinking into simple easy to understand lessons.

This book is a very quick read but offers a number of great resources buried within its covers. There are lots of colorful photos and examples throughout the book. If that wasn’t enough Paul even uses QR Codes to link to information and videos on his websites for more detailed learning. The end of each chapter concludes with “The One Thing” which is a synopsis of what you just learned which is followed up by questions to make you act on your own situation. This reinforces the lessons and substantiates the learning for readers.

There is an audio version of the book that recorded. This is a real treat to listen to since Paul is such a passionate personality. Anyone who knows Paul knows the energy he brings to this topic. Paul goes off script from the book but adds great value. Since the stories are so personal he ad libs throughout the recording adding some new tibits to ponder.

Paul says’, “At the end of the day everyone is a process engineer.” If you want something to stick as a leader you must expect it, inspect it, and reinforce it. Paul has simplified a rather complex process down into a simple phrase: "Identify what bugs you and fix it." Paul shows us that Lean can and should be fun.

I highly recommend reading this book and even further endorse the audio portion. You will find 2 Second Lean a fun, memorable, and valuable account into Lean. This story and its lessons is something everyone can benefit from personally and professionally.




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Friday, September 21, 2012

Lean Quote: Inspiration Through Listening and Effective Communication

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Sometimes when you need to inspire people, all you have to do is listen. " — Pat Riley, NBA Basketball Coach

Our experiences in life create a set of values and beliefs within us that is unique to each individual. Values are the basis of our beliefs and our beliefs lead us to act. Words are labels for our experiences. Since no two of us will have the same experiences, no two of us will have the same definition for the same word. The Universal Communication Problem is to find a channel that will form a link of understanding between the sender and receiver. Both people will need to work at establishing this link. We can neither prejudge nor make assumptions. Good communication tools can help us find some common ground.

The process of communication involves establishing a link with another person either directly (verbal or non-verbal) or indirectly. There are many strategies that can help us send out information and read feedback effectively.

Basic Communication Principles:

  • Communication is an exchange of information 
  • Communication is always and only one to one 
  • There are two processes when communicating – sending and receiving 
  • As a sender, we can use tools and skills to LINK with another person 
  • As a receiver, we can use tools and skills to understand what is being conveyed 
  • Information can be exchanged directly through words (verbal) or emotions (non-verbal) 
  • Information can be exchanged indirectly through posters, signs, videos, e-mail or voice mail 
To be an effective communicator remember The “Be List”.
  • Be A Teacher 
  • Be Enthusiastic 
  • Be Positive 
  • Be Consistent 
  • Be Demanding but Considerate 
  • Be Courteous
 Successful leaders see the larger picture and will share the vision. When we see our role this way, effective communication skills become one of our most important assets.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Meet-up: Lean Simulation's Martin Boersema

Today on the Meet-up, I am happy to introduce you to Martin Boersema. Martin is a Lean practitioner from the Toronto area and creator of the blog Lean Simulations. The goal of this site is to create a resource or repository for training simulations, videos, and other tools for sharing and learning. I have followed Martin and his site since it's creation because of the wealth of free knowledge he shares. It is a great learning opportunity.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Martin Boersema, and I’m a manufacturing engineer in Ontario, Canada. I’m also a continuous improvement coordinator, a kaizen facilitator, lean trainer and a lot of other names. I currently work at a smaller division of a large international automotive parts supplier. One of the benefits of working in a smaller plant, is that I have some autonomy to try different things without wading through reams of red tape.

How and when did you learn Lean?
The origins of Lean are in automotive manufacturing, so I’ve been exposed to it in my daily work for many years. Working in a just-in-time facility forces a lean mentality somewhat, but a lot of our activities are still achieved simply by brute force. Old habits are hard to break and there are plenty of opportunities.

A mechanical engineer by education, I worked for several years in program management, and also dabbled as a six sigma black belt, completing several projects, and learning some lean aspects like value stream mapping.

In my current role of manufacturing engineer, I still use all my six sigma training, doing statistical tests, gauge studies and the occasional Design of Experiments. My primary focus now is on lean activities, where I get to design work cells, and lead small teams in kaizen events.

My first official lean training took place about 10 years ago at a Ford lean workshop. We got to play with a Lego work cell and experience lean concepts. Since then, I’ve become the trainer and conducted similar training using games to show lean concepts.

While not certified in lean (if there is any value in that, I’m not sure), I’ve been mentored by some very knowledgeable lean experts.

How and why did you start blogging or writing about Lean?
I`m a geek. One of my passions outside of work is playing boardgames. I’m not talking about your grandmother’s Parcheesi or the annual Christmas game of Monopoly, but real strategy games where you have to balance scarce resources to achieve long term victory. In my spare time I spend many hours deep in thought staring silently at little cardboard pieces with groups of other similarly crazy people.

Experiencing a lean training game, especially one using Lego, hooked me immediately. It was amazing to see lean concepts in action, but because of my passion for games, I loved the simulation just as much. As I began to train people myself, I looked for more simple and fun ways to demonstrate Lean. I had big plans to design my own version of a lean game and publish it for everyone, so I started my blog.

Well, I haven`t designed my own game yet, but I found a lot of great training material. And the more I read about lean, the more I wrote about it. Now the site has become more than just a collection of resources, but also a chronicle of my own lean journey.

And who knows, I might still put together a lean simulation of my own.

What does Lean mean to you?
Lean for me is a way of thinking. Often I ask myself what is the “Lean” approach to a certain problem. You have to understand the reasons why you’re doing things, the goal behind the tools. This took me awhile to figure out, and I think everyone has to go through this learning process by working on lean projects themselves, not just learning it in a book.

What is the biggest myth or misconception of Lean?
See above. Lean is about reducing inventory, improving flow, linking processes, reducing lead times and improving flexibility. When you’re tasked with a problem, it’s easy to look at that problem, that particular process and see how it can be improved. Sometimes we lose ourselves in addressing an individual process, but there’s no continuity with the rest of the process. And then Lean doesn’t move the business forward significantly.

We need to step back and look at the big picture. How does an improvement fit into the whole? Although individual aspects of lean are often easy and make common sense, Lean as a whole is difficult, since everything is interlinked.

What is your current Lean passion, project, or initiative?
I still work on specific areas and lead kaizen events (I even build the odd flow rack myself), but my current passion is for larger systemic solutions, that improve the entire business. These types of projects, like kanban, visual scheduling, communication improvements take longer and touch more areas in the plant. They’re harder. But the reward is greater.




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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Daily Lean Tips Edition #36

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #526 - Create opportunities to showcase your employees.

"Billboard" employees to your own supervisors and to others in upper management as well as to those outside your department or division. Some managers erroneously think that if they give workers credit, upper management will question the manager's own performance. But managers who fall into the trap of competing with the employees they supervise usually stall their own careers.

Lean Tip #527 - Add interest and challenge to workers' day-to-day routines by implementing job rotation.

Job rotation simply involves placing employees into jobs of equal value that they may have expressed an interest in or that you expect, based on their skill strengths, they may do well in. Some organizations encourage employees to initiate job rotation through a formal process, thereby increasing job skill levels as well as motivation.

Lean Tip #528 - Provide employees with responsibility and authority to successfully accomplish assignments.

Today, progressive companies utilize the skills and talents of their employees by assigning them to cross-functional or self-directed work teams. Employees not only perform their own specific job functions by have a team identity as well. Team members are responsible and accountable to the team for achieving its goal, implementing processes, and sharing the recognition for its results.

Lean Tip #529 - Provide assistance to employees without taking away responsibility to complete the job.

Clearly define your role and avoid the temptation to do the job yourself when employees find themselves in hot water. Let employees go it on their own and face those gut-wrenching challenges.

Lean Tip #530 - Find ways to foster employee self-esteem and self-confidence.

Although important, managers and supervisors must do more than give praise and provide meaningful work. To empower employees, supervisors must continually build employee self-esteem.

Lean Tip #531 – Limiting overproduction helps make the process Lean but also a lot more Green.

Identify areas of overproduction and root causes of waste in the current manufacturing system and find ways to reduce or eliminate them in the future. Some raw materials can be recycled meaning your carbon footprint will be reduced, however energy consumption will increase and the amount of unnecessary products needing disposal is a distinct possibility.

Lean Tip #532 - Manufacturing companies who want to reduce costs and increase efficiency, should not neglect quality control.

If this area is overlooked, you end up with defects and added waste which will need to be disposed of. More space is required if these products are stored for reworking or repair and therefore means an increase in energy use for heating, cooling and lighting.

Lean Tip #533 – Eliminating or reducing waste will maximize product yield, while helping a manufacturing company be more green.

This means less waste will go to landfills and more products made. Additionally, it saves the company money as typically, waste makes up four percent of business turnover.

Lean Tip #534 - Expand the definition of waste to include not only product and process waste, but also the business consequences of unsustainable practices.

When you expand your thinking, Muda’s list of wastes takes a different form:

• Waste of natural resources
• Waste of human potential
• Waste due to emissions
• Waste from byproducts (reuse potential)
• Terminal waste, that is by-products that have not further usefulness
• Energy waste
• Waste of the unneeded (e.g., packaging)

When sustainability is viewed this way, it isn’t something new that has to be planned from scratch and agonized over. Instead, it can be integrated into existing continuous improvement programs – Lean, or even Six Sigma initiatives.

Lean Tip #535 - A lean and green supply chain helps manufacturers save money and reduce environmental impact at the same time.

Manufacturers can stay competitive and reduce their environmental footprint at the same time by partnering with the Green Suppliers. By targeting the root causes of wasteful practices along the supply chain you can mutually achieve business and environmental goals.

Lean Tip #536 – Productivity Tip: Know how you currently spend your time.

The simplest way to do this is to keep a log of what you do each day for a period time. While this may initially feel like a time waster, it is a necessary planning step. Just like you can't budget your money without knowing where you're currently spending it, you can't budget your time without knowing where it's going either. By keeping a log you'll become more aware of stress times and down times, and will be better equipped to plan your time.

Lean Tip #537 – Productivity Tip: Identify your "prime time."

Your "prime time" is your most productive time. For many people that time tends to be in the morning while others find it take a while to get going. By scheduling your most important tasks for the times you're at your best, you'll be able to get them done faster and more effectively.

Lean Tip #538 – Productivity Tip: Do tomorrow's planning tonight.

Being prepared for the coming day will enable you to get more work done, and be more effective at what you do. As you wind down at the end of the day use this time to create a simple, prioritized to-do list, so you'll be better able to focus on what needs to be done the next day.

Lean Tip #539 – Productivity Tip: Continually ask yourself "Why am I doing what I'm doing right now?"

If you cannot answer this question, you are not being as productive as you could be. Make sure that you are doing something for a specific reason, and simply not wasting your valuable time spinning your wheels.

Lean Tip #540 – Productivity Tip: Handle each piece of paper or e-mail once.

When you have completed a task, either file it away or pass it on to someone else. When doing tasks and making decisions, make the decision and then stick to it. Do not put off making a decision, and don't make vague, wishy-washy decisions. Being more decisive will free you up to move on to other tasks, making you more productive.


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